My favorite ammo vendor, SGAmmo of Oklahoma, has just published their latest newsletter. They warn:
News from Shotshow 2024: I just got home from 4 days in Las Vegas at the shotshow, where I met with the people from the factories we work with, factory sales people, factory directors and owners, importers, etc. The big point of discussion seemed to be shortness in supply for nitrocellulose, which is the raw material used to make gunpowder and other propellants and explosives. Based on these conversations, the issue seems to be based on 2 factors, decreased availability in the supply chain and increased demand for the manufacturing of military ordnance.
Getting into the details and a little more, a huge percentage of the nitrocellulose used to make gunpowder historically came from China and Russia, however according to my conversations with industry partners, the Chinese manufacturers who historically were the biggest suppliers at over 30% of the market share are no longer willing to ship raw nitrocellulose to the USA or NATO member countries in attempt to reduce the USA & NATO's ability to supply Ukrainian forces with artillery shells, and of course Russia who historically was the 2nd biggest supplier is out of the supply chain as well. This decrease in supply in raw material has gunpowder manufacturers in the USA raising prices dramatically and cutting off many of the smaller ammo manufacturers.
The 2nd part of this issue is the demand for military ordnance, like 155mm artillery shells that use huge quantities gunpowder propellants, and the gunpowder manufacturers switching production to this type of gunpowder with what supply of nitrocellulose they do get. The first reason is that they always put the US government's needs before those of the commercial market, and the second reason is that it is simply much more profitable to manufacturer military ordnance than it is small caliber ammunition, so they get a much more profitable price manufacturing powder for artillery shells.
In conclusion, while most of the factories seem to have gunpowder stockpiled today, this issue is expected to catch up to them no later than the summer of 2024 and possibly within a few months, and when it does it will mean the factories will be capable of producing much less small caliber ammunition to sell to the US commercial market. If demand for ammo is low to moderate, you may not see a big change, but if demand were to go way up as it does periodically, the factories will not be able to ramp up capacity to fill that demand. In my opinion, a lot could go wrong in the commercial ammo supply chain in 2024 and it would be wise to stock up sooner than later as 2024 price increases have just started to set in on just a handful of select items so far, and availability is still good which has held prices down temporarily.
This makes sense to me. For example, a single 155mm. artillery round can consume up to 25 pounds of propellant, whereas that same weight of propellant could make many thousands of rounds of rifle or handgun ammunition. Military demand has been off the charts, thanks to sending tens of thousands of artillery and tank ammunition to Ukraine and Israel, and having to replenish our own depleted stocks (not to mention those of several NATO countries).
It's worth thinking about the availability of ammunition if a shooting war should erupt that involves the USA. I know that during World War II, civilian ammunition supplies were almost completely curtailed. Manufacturers simply didn't produce most civilian cartridges and calibers, and everything that was produced went straight to the military. Civilian hunters and shooters who loaded their own ammunition and cast their own bullets were able to continue, but many others hung up their firearms for the duration - they had no choice. Back then the internal security situation was a lot more stable than it is these days, so that didn't pose too much of a problem. Now? I'd be very, very skittish at the thought that I might not be able to defend my family and home.
(There's also the factor that an anti-gun government might use the opportunity to simply ban all civilian sales of ammo and firearms, and even turn to confiscation to get its hands on the millions of rounds in private hands. One can't predict that with any certainty, but I'd regard it as not unlikely.)
Friends, if you use firearms in common military calibers (e.g. 5.56x45mm NATO, 7.62x51mm NATO, 9mm Parabellum, etc.) I'd very strongly suggest that you stockpile enough ammo in those cartridges to see you through a few years of shooting. I also encourage you to stockpile enough .22LR ammo to use for training purposes (either using conversion kits to fit your existing firearms, or dedicated .22LR weapons), because that'll be a whole lot cheaper (and better for your supplies) than using full-patch ammo. However many rounds you store for each of your "service" weapons, I think three to four times as many rounds of .22LR would be a useful accompaniment - and that's for each weapon. YMMV, of course.
Each of us will have to make hard choices as to what we consider essential. I've made mine. I can only suggest that you make your own, quickly, and take steps to implement them while ammo supplies are still relatively freely available, at relatively low cost. That could change almost overnight. It has, in the past. Also . . . it's an election year. Who knows what might come down the pike aimed at gun owners?